I’m beginning to get email from interviewees wondering where I’ve got to. Sorry, I didn’t get kicked out with the cat. I’m here! This has been a complicated month, but the book project continues!
There are two developments I should have shared last week, so forgive me. I have submitted a chapter into the Canada Writes competition, and I have found a top-notch editor. Excited? Oh my yes, I am.
The chapter I submitted was entitled The Rite of Passage, which describes the day an adventurous five year-old first rode without her training wheels. I chose that one because anyone who has ever been on a bicycle will relate to the story. Besides, it contains nothing controversial and if the book gained attention for this entry, I wouldn’t want it immediately associated with anything worriesome. My editor (more on that in a moment) feels that while it’s an excellent chapter, it will likely not win because it is competing against other creative non-fiction more dramatic and suspenseful. I’m alright with that. All I want is to be recognized, which would give the project more credibility. To be fair though, the chapter is very strong and I am proud to have submitted it.
This is my first entry into a writing competition, and one of such status that my heart flutters at the thought. We won’t hear anything for six months. Must. Sit. On. Hands.
Next, the editor. I have not asked permission to reveal her name yet, but I can tell you that the last major project she assisted with won a Giller Prize (more heart flutters… ) While I don’t expect to be anywhere in that league with One Block North, I can tell you that within minutes of speaking with her, I knew I had a strong writer and one who shared our vision.
I am now in the process of editing the book in preparation for handing it over to her for feedback. She has given me the following sage advice.
The book is too long. Each chapter must be reduced to about two pages. Keep only the most salient details. Further, some chapters can be combined, and some can be removed entirely.
Next, many chapters don’t have enough personal details about the interviewee and there is not enough dialogue.
Finally, each chapter must focus on something dramatic.
Technical writers avoid drama at all costs. You now see why I’ve been MIA. I’m trying to unlearn everything I’ve been taught and write against my nature. Every chapter inherently contains some dramatic feature, but I’m now experimenting with how best to bring it out.
I want to assure you that any chapters that I remove will be stored in my percolating machine (also known as a brain, to those lucky enough to have one that functions as designed). I have already removed two chapters but have used comments made by those kind interviewees to underscore points in other chapters. Every story is valid and unique, and I won’t leave any out entirely.
So, how is it going? This morning, I took myself out to breakfast. There, I rewrote the chapter on our illustrious Bike Police (it now has a chase scene—everyone likes a good chase scene, right?) and the chapter on the Donut Ride. I know. Two ends of the spectrum. So much fun! You want my life, don’t you?
Both chapters now describe the interviewee in more detail, include more compelling dialogue, and both now centre on a single bike story that will give anyone butterflies. It was all I could do to resist reading these heartwarming tales out loud to the other restaurant patrons.
I’m here, writing. Edits. Edits. Edits. Adventure. Drama. Suspense. Swashbuckling tales of intrigue.
Bicycles. I am alive. Thank you Toronto. We who ride bicycles are alive.